Persistent primitive hypoglossal artery with retrograde flow from the vertebrobasilar system: A case report

Mohamed Samy A. Elhammady, Mustafa K. Başkaya, Osman F. Sőnmez, Jacques J. Morcos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The persistent primitive hypoglossal artery (PPHA) is one of the pairs of arterial connections that exist in the human embryo between the developing anterior and posterior circulation. Normally the PPHA arises from the cervical internal carotid artery (ICA) and passes through the hypoglossal canal to join the caudal basilar artery (BA). In most cases the vertebral arteries (VA) are either hypoplastic or aplastic and the posterior communicating arteries (PComA) are absent; thus, the main supply to the posterior circulation comes from the internal carotid via the PPHA in an antegrade fashion. Atherosclerotic plaques in the ICA and PPHA present with ischemic symptoms of both the carotid and vertebrobasilar systems. We report a case of a 53-year-old female who presented with a transient episode of left lower extremity numbness and weakness. Work-up with computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed a small watershed infarct in the right middle cerebral artery (MCA)/posterior cerebral artery (PCA) territory. Diagnostic angiography revealed severe proximal stenosis of the cervical ICA and presence of a PPHA just above the stenosis with retrograde filling from the vertebrobasilar junction to the distal cervical ICA. The patient underwent a carotid endarterectomy with intraoperative EEG monitoring. Intraoperative blood flow measurements were made before and after endarterectomy showing evidence of reversal of blood flow to a normal antegrade fashion. The postoperative angiogram showed resolution of the right ICA stenosis and persistence of the PHA. To our knowledge this is the first case report of a PPHA exhibiting reversal of blood flow from the posterior into the anterior circulation. Awareness of this embryological anomaly and its interaction with acquired atherosclerotic disease will minimize misinterpretation of vascular diagnostic studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-349
Number of pages5
JournalNeurosurgical Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Carotid endarterectomy
  • Carotid stenosis
  • Primitive hypoglossal artery
  • Transient ischemic attacks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


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